Zhao Sheng, China's new ambassador to Afghanistan was welcomed with a lavish ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday.
In the palace ceremony, Taliban Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund shook hands with Zhao and “accepted the credentials of the new Chinese Ambassador,” the prime minister’s office said on social media platform X, CNN reported.
Only a handful of countries including Pakistan, Iran and Russia have maintained diplomatic relations with Afghanistan since the Taliban took over the government in August 2021. The Taliban government has not been formally recognised by the US and several other Western leaders. The West has time and again been criticised for violating human rights, particularly the suppression of women's rights under the Taliban's regime.
“The Honorable Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate thanked the leadership of China for the appointment of Mr Zhao Sheng as ambassador and expressed hope that this appointment would elevate the diplomatic relations between the two countries to a higher level and the beginning of a new chapter,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN.
Zhao said China “fully respects Afghanistan’s independence, territorial integrity and independence in decision-making.” Prime Minister Hasan Akhund “expressed his hope for taking more steps to further strengthen the bilateral relations,” Mujahid said.
After the Taliban took over the Afghanistan government, China was cautious about potential security challenges in the region, but, since then Chinese officials have stressed increasing cooperation with Afghanistan on issues such as anti-terrorism cooperation, and “economic collaboration” among others.